On the one-year anniversary of being confirmed by the Senate as the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue delivered testimony on Tuesday to the Senate Agriculture Committee at a hearing titled, "The State of Rural America." Sec. Perdue was quizzed by Senators about a variety of issues, including trade and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
China recently announced anti-dumping measures on U.S. sorghum. Meanwhile, potential action by China on U.S. soybeans continues to concern farm state lawmakers and agricultural producers alike. Today's update looks at recent news articles that explore these issues, and their potential implications, in greater detail.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve Board released its April 2018 Beige Book update, a summary of commentary on current economic conditions by Federal Reserve District. The report included several observations pertaining to the U.S. agricultural economy.
On Wednesday, the House Ag Committee passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2) on a partisan 26-20 vote. Democrat Members of the Committee expressed frustration over the bill, while Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R., Tex.) noted that, "I’m disappointed that my Democrat colleagues have turned their backs on America’s heartland – that they’ve chosen partisan politics over the three years of bipartisan work in this committee. Democrats halted talks over their objection to requiring work-capable adults to either find employment or receive free training for 20 hours per week. Yet, despite this turn of events, I remain hopeful."
On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee released its draft of the Farm Bill. As expected, the nutrition title of the measure, which includes the SNAP program (food stamps) has garnered the most attention.
On Monday, President Trump noted that ongoing trade turbulence with China could adversely impact U.S. agricultural producers already hampered by a sluggish U.S. farm economy. The President has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for options to assist farmers negatively impacted by the recent trade developments. Meanwhile, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue faced questions from farm state lawmakers about trade issues, and potential responses, at a Senate hearing on Wednesday morning.
Kristina Peterson reported on Sunday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, "House Speaker Paul Ryan’s long-sought goal of overhauling welfare programs will get a kick-start when Congress returns to Washington this week, as Republicans prepare to release a new, five-year farm bill that would impose tougher work requirements to get food stamps.
Today's update includes a brief explanation of recent trade tariff action taken by the U.S. and China. The trade uncertainty unfolds as agricultural producers anticipate another year of stagnant farm income, and while robust production of corn and soybeans in recent years has made exports an important component of demand. Overall, USDA has noted that agricultural exports account for 20 percent of U.S. farm income. Meanwhile, President Trump has instructed Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to "implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests" as the trade tussle continues.
Since withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his first working day in office, and formally opening the North American Free Trade Agreement to the renegotiation process, President Trump's rhetoric on trade has perhaps caused more anxiety among agricultural producers than actual executive branch action. However, implementation of concrete trade policy from the Administration began to emerge in January of this year when the U.S. slapped tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines.
On Monday, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas released its quarterly Agricultural Credit Survey. Also on Monday, the American Bankers Association highlighted several 2017 farm lending variables in its annual Farm Bank Performance Report. Meanwhile, a recent news article from Minnesota documented that farm incomes in the state remained stagnant last year. Today's update highlights key points from these information sources.